x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

UAE call for compulsory car seats for children under 10

Road safety: Ministry of Interior officials want mandatory car seats for children after statistics show five deaths and 134 injuries in the first six months of the year.

Families in the UAE will have to make sure their children where seatbelts if calls for a compulsory law are introduced.
Families in the UAE will have to make sure their children where seatbelts if calls for a compulsory law are introduced.

ABU DHABI // The Ministry of Interior is renewing its efforts to make child car restraints compulsory and lower the number of children killed or hurt in accidents.

Five children died in traffic accidents across the UAE and 134 were injured in the first six months of this year.

"The ministry is seeking to issue a decision that requires all motorists in the country to provide car seats for their children and to keep them safely fastened in the back seat of the vehicle in order to protect them," Brig Gaith Al Zaabi, the ministry's director general of traffic co-ordination, told Al Ittihad newspaper.

Dr Abdulilah Zineddin, an Abu Dhabi road-safety specialist, welcomed the safety measures but said work was needed to introduce them because of the size of Emirati families, and culture.

"I applaud them [the ministry] for their excellent thinking and for putting great importance to the safety of children in the UAE," Dr Zineddin said.

He said restraints reduced the number of children hurt and killed in accidents, and the severity of injuries.

But authorities should also focus on enforcement and educational campaigns to make motorists understand why restraints were needed, Dr Zineddin said.

"It's a cultural thing," he said. "People need to be aware and to adopt a law which protects the children. They should also learn the consequences of not abiding by the law.

"It is important that the UAE, a leader in the modernised Arab countries, adopt child-safety seat laws."

A properly enforced law, he said, would "definitely improve and enhance [children's] safety".

There are signs that resistance from parents has slowly been eroding after years of awareness campaigns and several hospitals giving away car seats.

In January this year, a survey conducted for Al Aan TV's Nabd Al Arab (Arabs' Pulse) programme by YouGov Siraj suggested parents were getting better at using child-safety seats, but more than a third still avoided the devices.

About 15 per cent said they did not use car seats because their children "don't like it and struggle".

"I think it is absolutely crucial to have child-safety seats so children would also learn how to respect rules and behave properly while inside the car," said Zeina Abdo, a Lebanese mother of two boys, aged four and six.

Mrs Abdo said she made sure her sons were seated and the seat belts were properly fastened.

"Not only do I welcome a law making child-safety seats mandatory under the age of 10, I'm already enforcing it on my children."

Mohammed Aboobaker, 39, an area operations manager at a bank, was involved in a crash while on his way to Dubai two years ago. The booster seats for his children, now aged five and nine, were a lifesaver, he said.

"I had a couple of broken bones while they did not have a single scratch," Mr Aboobaker said. "I highly recommend putting in a child seat and strapping the children for their safety."

It is not the first time the move has been promised. In July last year, Brig Al Zaabi said provisions would be in place by the end of 2011.

But he has stressed that traffic patrols had lifted inspection efforts, with Dh400 fines and four black points against the licences of drivers who let their children sit in the front seat.

rruiz@thenational.ae